22 December 2020
Evelyn Community Food Store is a pantry which serves housing association residents of the surrounding estate in Deptford, south London. The project has been supplied surplus food by Felix South London – FareShare’s London operation – for the past two years.
The pantry is open two days a week and members pay £3.50 to take home three or four bags of fresh food, from fruit and veg, to yoghurts, meat and pasta and tins. Natasha Ricketts runs the operation along with a team of friendly volunteers who pack the food and make sure they get to know everyone who passes through the door.
Esther, who lives in a flat nearby with her partner and four year old son, has been coming to the pantry for over a year and says the service is “fantastic”.
“All the volunteers go above and beyond,” she says. “I’m always amazed by the variety of food on offer. We’ve had fresh vegetables straight from farms, and even organic food which is a real treat. There isn’t a week that goes by where I wouldn’t have spent at least £30 more buying from shops, and that’s money I can save and put towards other essentials.”
But members get more than food; it’s also become a valued community hub, as Esther explains: “I’m always amazed by the food, but the pantry also offers real community support – the volunteers know everyone and recognise when I’m not looking myself. That’s almost as important as the food for me,” she says.
“They’ll always make time to have a chat with me and just knowing I have something to go to on a weekly basis which is part of the community really helps my mental health and wellbeing.”
The pantry serves well over 100 families and individuals each week – and that number is growing every week. The outbreak of COVID-19 in March had a big impact on the local community and Natasha’s team had to respond quickly to cope with growing demand – with the pantry introducing measures for social distancing and also delivering food to the doorsteps of those who were too vulnerable to leave their homes.
Natasha says: “The demand has shot up since March. We’re getting new people through the doors every week. People have lost jobs or had to shield and we’ve been working hard to make sure we’re getting food to as many people as we can.
“We couldn’t do what we do without FareShare. They provide most of our food and without them we couldn’t offer anywhere near the amount of fresh fruit and veg that we do, which is so important for the families we work with in the area.”
Funding from Asda has helped FareShare London access and distribute significantly higher volumes of food to charities like Evelyn Community Food Store all across the capital. Last year, Asda’s investment funded the costs of a brand new chiller for the warehouse, doubling chilled food capacity – and since the lockdown in March, the team is now distributing fourfold the amount of food each week.
Not only this, but an emergency Covid-19 response grant from Asda in March has also meant FareShare London has been able to supply this food to its charity network free of charge. Many of the frontline charities FareShare serves have had funding slashed since the outbreak of coronavirus, and so to help ensure these charities could continue to feed the most vulnerable, FareShare London used Asda funding to waiver fees for its charity members until September.